The Board of Deputies of British Jews and World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) today welcomed Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s commitment to cooperate with international partners to raise issues surrounding proposed legislation in Poland. The proposed legislation has a narrow set of eligibility criteria that would exclude the vast majority of Holocaust survivors and their families whose property was confiscated in the Holocaust and its aftermath.
In a letter to Board of Deputies Chief Executive Gillian Merron, the Foreign Secretary wrote that the UK’s Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, Sir Eric Pickles, has raised the issue of the draft legislation with his Polish counterpart and the Minister in the Presidential Chancellery responsible for post-Holocaust issues and that the UK Government ‘notes the reservations’ expressed by the Board of Deputies and World Jewish Restitution Organization.
The Foreign Secretary continues by saying “the British Embassy will continue to raise this important issue in their bilateral exchanges and a like-minded group of embassies (US, UK, Israel, Australia, France) is due to meet the Justice Minister to discuss it further.”
Board of Deputies Senior Vice President Richard Verber said: “We have long pressed the Polish Government to take proactive steps to address the issue of post-Holocaust restitution. Unfortunately this step is deeply disappointing. We hope that the just concerns surrounding this legislation will be addressed before it is presented to parliament and we will continue to work closely with our colleagues to ensure these concerns are voiced through the appropriate channels. We are grateful to the Foreign Secretary, FCO civil servants and diplomats at the UK Embassy in Warsaw who are working diligently to ensure a British voice is heard.”
WJRO Chair of Operations Gideon Taylor said: “After over 70 years of waiting, Holocaust survivors and their families are entitled to a measure of justice for the property wrongfully taken from them. We thank the Government of the United Kingdom in joining the call for legislation in Poland that is fair and just.”
As the Jewish ‘first port of call’ for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in the United Kingdom, the Board of Deputies works closely with its partner the World Jewish Restitution Organization to ensure that civil servants and ministers are briefed on developments relating to the important issue of post-Holocaust restitution. Both organisations warmly welcome the Foreign Secretary and HM Government’s efforts to ensure that the issue of justice for survivors and descendants remains at the heart of the post-Holocaust issues agenda.
More information on the proposed legislation can be found in a previously issued WJRO press release.